Enabling women to help themselves
Sierra Leone is rebuilding its communities and the lives of people who suffered more than 11 years of brutal war. Despite the national reconstruction programme organised by the government, women have largely been left to fend for themselves. They head up households as single parents and are subjected to violence.
What are we doing?
We are working with our local partner, Graceland Sierra Leone (GSL), to protect and support women in 3 rural areas. GSL provides counselling to women and girl survivors of violence and set ups saving loan schemes for women living with HIV.
With our support, GSL is:
- Setting up drop-in centres in 2 regions where women can seek advice and support
- Providing psychosocial counselling to women survivors of violence, through 1:1 sessions, couple, family and group counselling
- Organising local events, such as rallies, to help women empower themselves and commemorate key dates such as International Women’s Day, the Day of the African Child and World Aids Day. It is estimated that 10,000 people (mostly women) have participated in 1 or more of these events
- Arranging ‘Training of Trainers’ sessions, enabling community members to teach others how to support survivors of violence. Counsellors and volunteers have benefited from training on issues such as child pornography, sexual exploitation and unsafe abortion
- Arranging large-scale meetings, setting-up and training advocacy groups and organising quarterly radio programmes to change attitudes and behaviours towards violence against women
- Using community radio to discuss issues relevant to women, such as unsafe abortion. It is estimated that around 8,000 listeners have benefited from community radio through the programme Woman Talk
- Using community drama sessions to communicate with women who cannot read or write. One drama session alone attracted an audience of 7,500 people from the surrounding areas
What difference have we made?
- 10 Community Conversation Committees have been set up to encourage discussion on violence against women. 300 women have taken part and have learnt about their rights – on issues such as inheritance, marriage, decision-making and sexual reproductive health
- 10 awareness raising workshops on women’s rights have been held within a 12-month period, with 300 women taking part
- 10 psychosocial caregivers (9 women and 1 man) were trained within a 12-month period, bringing the total number of caregivers within the 3 target communities to 25. The caregivers help with counselling, identification of cases and referrals
- 45 people (36 women and 9 men) have been trained as community advocacy group members. They join caregivers to discuss issues of violence and report to community stakeholders such as chiefs
- During 1 year alone, 559 women and girls were given psychosocial counselling to discuss experiences of violence and living with HIV
- Women living with HIV are sharing their experiences with other members of their communities and initiating a village savings and loan scheme to provide household income
- Other groups of women have started businesses in, for example, animal husbandry
Mata is one of 25 women to benefit from a micro-credit group, which has enabled her to set up her own business selling rice and pineapples.
“Before, when school started, I used to go to my family members to ask for help to pay the fees for the children. But now I can afford it myself. My husband and I had a separate life, but now that I contribute to the financial running of the home, we talk to each other and consult on important decisions.” Mata